Mayawati's support could help the government scrape through by a whisker and win tomorrow's vote in the Upper House, where it is in a minority.
The UPA government has 95 MPs and nine of the 10 nominated MPs are expected to vote for it, a total of 104. The 10th, Sachin Tendulkar, is playing the Kolkata third Test against England and will not be in the House. The Rajya Sabha has 244 members. With the nine Samajwadi Party MPs expected to abstain, as the party did in the Lok Sabha, and Sachin absent, the House strength will come down to 234 and the majority mark to 117. Ms Mayawati's 15 MPs will take the pro-FDI total to 119.
The BSP chief announced her support for the government over FDI at the end of her speech in Rajya Sabha today, much of which was used to attack the BJP for criticising her walkout before the vote in Lok Sabha yesterday.
On FDI in retail, she said, "What is good but is that it is not compulsory for all states. We have also considered whether to stand with communal forces. There can be disruption in the coming days. Important bills are pending, the government will get the excuse to escape important issues. That's why looking at plus points, the BSP will vote in favour of the government."
Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party has nine Rajya Sabha MP. The SP's Naresh Aggarwal said today the party was likely to abstain from voting in the Upper House. The SP has been a vociferous opponent of FDI in multi-brand retail and Mr Yadav had made a strong speech in the Lok Sabha against it.
Strongly opposing FDI, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said the policy will make India a country of 'sales boys and sales girls'. Mr Jaitley said, "When we open our market to foreign retailers without reforms in manufacturing, what will happen? The first to be affected will be jobs in manufacturing sector. We (will) cease to be a manufacturing nation. We will be consumers and our children will be sales boys and sales girls."
The Trinamool Congress said that the country was not ready for foreign investment in retail. It also blamed the government for keeping "international opinion" above national interest. "Trinamool is against seeing India only as a market but the Congress-led minority government has rejected this idea. FDI is a Foreign Direct Instruction," Trinamool MP Derek O'Brien said in the Rajya Sabha.
In opening retail FDI, Mr O'Brien said, the "UPA government is behaving like a property dealer which starts decorating a drawing room without building a foundation". The Trinamool Congress was an ally of the UPA-II government but withdrew its support after the government approved 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail.
V Maitreyan of the AIADMK initiated the debate in the Rajya Sabha at noon today, speaking in Tamil, English and Hindi to accuse the government of going back on its promise in Parliament that it would allow foreign direct investment or FDI in multi-brand retail only after consulting all political parties.
Calling the government's rationale behind FDI as "damned lies at the worst", Mr Maitreyan urged all political parties to defeat the "minority government in the house".